Review: Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch

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FORMERLY a screenwriter, Ben Aaronovitch has since made a new name for himself with his novels about DC Peter Grant, of which this is the fourth.

Peter’s a fairly typical London cop – except for being the Met’s first apprentice wizard in decades. Along with his mentor, DCI Nightingale, and colleague Lesley May, he’s responsible for keeping an eye on London’s supernatural side.

Much of the books’ success comes from Aaronovitch’s meticulous handling of tone; these are police procedurals which pay attention to real policing, not some Luther-style pantomime, and the demands of bureaucracy are a perfect counterpoint for the uncanny elements.

But the magic itself, as gradually becomes clear, also works to very precise rules, which one ignores at grave peril. Such a set-up could easily become constricting, particularly when the nature of the genre means mayhem and murder are mainstays. But the Peter Grant stories are fun reading, simply through his wry, long-suffering line in narration.

Wonderful as the world-building and characterisation have always been, the first two books had one weakness: the plotting. An alert reader of the first two books will work out what’s going on hundreds of pages before Grant and Nightingale; which given their training, strains plausibility.

Matters have since improved, and rather than jumping ahead, we’re along for the ride here, as the team try to join the dots between an unidentifiable corpse, a stolen grimoire, and a profoundly peculiar south 
London housing estate whose architect may have practised magic.

The climax does leave some threads of the plot hanging, presumably to be picked up in the next book – but it also provides enough of a resolution to satisfy.

Rating: * * * *